Become a Foster Care Social Worker

If you love to help other people, you’ve probably thought about becoming a social worker before. Working specifically with children in foster care is very rewarding, and using your social work degree to assist children in their time of need is a great way to make a living. In this article, we’ve detailed all the steps you’ll need to take to become a social worker and work with children in foster care.



  1. Get your bachelor’s degree in social work, psychology, or sociology. Typically, most social workers get their 4-year degree in social work. However, you can also get a degree in sociology or psychology and still become a social worker. Bachelor’s degrees usually take around 4 years (or a little more) to complete.[1]
  2. Take classes specific to foster care social work. This is especially important if you’re getting a sociology or psychology degree. Once you’ve done all of your pre-requisite classes, try to take a couple that are specific to foster care and foster care social work. These will teach you the skills you need to work closely with children in foster care, and they’ll also teach you more about the job and what it entails.[2]
    • You’ll probably take classes on foster care and adoption, clinical social work, and community work.
  3. Get a master’s degree to work directly with foster children. Most jobs in the foster care system require you to have a master’s degree in social work before you can apply. You can apply to a master’s degree program and usually complete it in less than 2 years. You’ll also need a master’s degree in social work if you plan to work in a clinical setting, like at a counselor or therapist’s office.[3]
    • There are some jobs, like Behavioral Aids, Case Management Aids, and Rehabilitation Case Workers that you can do with a bachelor’s degree in social work. However, you might not be working directly with foster children.[4]


  1. Check with your state to find out the licensing requirements. Just like education requirements, licensing and certification requirements can vary by state. All U.S. and Canadian territories require social workers to get a license, but a few have stricter requirements. It’s worth checking out your specific state’s requirements before starting the licensing process, just to be sure.[5]
  2. Get your LMSW during grad school. Licensed Master Social Workers can do clinical work, like therapy, even if they don’t have their full master’s degree yet. Usually, you’d get this license if you’re still in grad school but you’d like to do an internship in the field.[6] Earning this license is different for every state, but you must have your master’s degree in social work or be working toward it to qualify.
    • Most people get their LMSW as a stepping-stone to getting the licensed clinical social worker license (LCSW). If you choose to get this license, it means you’ll probably be doing mostly clinical work, like therapy and counseling.
  3. Complete the ASWB license application and pay a fee. Once you have a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree, you can submit an application to the Association of Social Work Boards to take a licensing exam. If you just graduated college, the exam costs $230; if you’re taking the advanced generalist or clinical exam, it costs $260. Once you submit your application, you can sign up for a time slot to complete your exam at a testing center.[7]
    • When you go to the exam, you’ll need to arrive 30 minutes early with 2 forms of ID. Once you’re there, you’ll get your picture taken and your palm scanned by a staff member.
  4. Pass the Association of Social Work Boards exam. The exam contains 170 multiple choice questions, and it usually takes a couple of hours to complete. You’ll be asked questions related to social work to test your competence and make sure you have enough education to join the workforce. Once you pass the exam, you’ll be granted your social work license.[8]

Finding a Job

  1. Apply to a government organization to work directly with foster children. Social workers who want to work closely with foster children often apply to local, state, or federal government organizations. Facilities like these will assign social workers a certain amount of cases, and you will be tasked with checking up on children in foster care, facilitating visitation, and advocating for them in court if need-be.[9]
    • The average salary for a governmental foster care worker is $47,390.
  2. Try a nonprofit organization for a smaller work environment. If you don’t want to work for the government, you can apply to a nonprofit organization to assist children in foster care and advocate for them. In a nonprofit setting, you will probably be matched with fewer cases, and you’ll have more time to dedicate to each child in foster care that you’re assigned to.[10]
    • Positions like these usually require a master’s degree since you’ll be working directly with foster children.
    • Salaries for nonprofit employees vary, but they’re usually less than what you’d make at a government organization.
  3. Apply to an adoption agency to facilitate home placements. If you’d like to help children in foster care find their forever home, you can work at an adoption agency to facilitate home visits and help match parents and children. You will most likely work with potential adoptive families and foster children one-on-one to find the right fit for everyone. You can apply to governmental adoption agencies or private ones, depending on your preference.[11]
    • Private adoption agencies usually don’t have quite the caseload that governmental ones do. If you’d prefer to only work with a few families at a time, a private practice is probably the way to go.